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Architect and Professor Bashes Tengah’s “Forest Town” Status as a “Bluff”

NUS adjunct professor Tay Kheng Soon has whacked the development of Tengah housing estate, calling its “forest town” moniker a “bluff”.

The housing project, which is expected to be the size of Bishan, will be completed in 2022.

Tay, an architect by profession, has urged concerned Singaporeans to help prevent this destruction of the “only large forest land on the west of Singapore” from being built upon.

He also took a side swipe at the Straits Times for not publishing his letter:

“This message is for Straits times. The more you only play the mouth piece role the more you lose readership and you lose your role as public educator. You are in trouble when people don’t respect you.

A newspaper in a multi racial society differentiated furthermore by income and education levels needs a media that fairly and caringly informs and educates everyone not just spout the party line. The collapse of the USSR is in no small measure attributable to state monopoly of information to such an extent that their leaders begin to believe their own propaganda.”

This is Tay’s commentary on the Tengah New Town development:

“I attended a private discussion triggered by the Tengah project organised by pioneer architect Tan Cheng Siong and attended by a number of senior architects, former planners and a few younger building professionals on 27th Oct. 2016.

Tengah is called a Forest Town, a bold attempt to urbanise a forest, taking Singapore’s City in a Garden concept to a new level. The key feature of the design is a linear forest park that threads through the town. The following are my own views in 3 phases:

1. Firstly housing is a socio-political thing. How does Tengah fit in? Here there are two key issues. One is the protection of asset value of existing flats owned by the old and second is affordability for younger voters. It would seem that Tengah addresses only the young. For the old, protection of their asset value is their greatest concern. Tengah is therefore not for them. More foreigners can boost asset value. Thus 6.9 or even 10 million, notwithstanding congestion. Grants help young buyers while protecting existing asset value of the old. Reverse mortgage and other financial schemes in addition are necessary. The problematic is if Tengah is only for the young, will it upset desirable family spatial relations?

2. Master Plan implications: In principle, building on brown sites is preferable to building on green sites. My YouTube video ”Singapore version 2.0” shows that land vacated by the port’s move to Tuas, can accommodate 1 million people stretching from Pandan Reservoir on the west to Marina East. Together with the availability of Paya Lebar Airport there should be no need to build on any precious forest land. Building on MRT sites plus infills within existing developments can add more floor space. Synergy with Cleantech Park does not need a whole new town next to it.

3. Tengah design shows no really new design thinking: The design is still not thought of as an intelligent living organism. When dwellings are clustered around an extensive nervous system like that of the human body is intelligence generated as people go about the routines of everyday life, going to school, to eat, to market, to shop, to civic events etc., new ideas, new people and new experiences free up learning naturally. Thus, like Acupuncture Meridians the Chi of the community releases collective intelligence and creativity for Singapore to prosper and be truly exceptional.”



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